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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The High Spot: The HeYmpire Strikes Back!
January 11, 2005 by Joseph Bachman


"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968)

What DID happen to our friends? Our cult like favorites whom we marked out for every Monday or Friday night. Tazz, The Rock, Raven, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Sting... How did Triple H become the biggest star on the WWE roster? We were a wrestling society based on the choice of three shows and now down to maybe 1 and a half. One being Raw and the other half split between Smackdown! and TNA. Was there a time when wrestling was extreme? As Terry Funk put it in 1995 at an ECW show, "we want to show everyone that wrestling is still spelled W-R-E-S-T-L-I-N-G" Of course a remark to wCw's and the WWF's "wrasslin'" like styles. What happened to Terry Funk? Where are our friends that were silenced nearly 4 years ago that sparked a new generation of wrestling? It sparked the wrestling revolution in which the sport we love so much was never the same again. Was it all a dream? Could the father of this revolution right now be jobless? Vince McMahon is talking about running an ECW Pay-Per-View in June and it's going to be without the father of it? For years now Extreme Championship Wrestling - NEVER dead - has been subject to ongoing ridicule by the "big 2", "old school" wrestling fans who are impressed with pyros and million dollar gimmicks, a self pro-claimed legend who has accomplished literally NOTHING in his career (hint hint, Jerry Lawler) plus a number of internet fans who want us to accept ECW's fate and let it go. Ehh...not yet.

"The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught." H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

The disrespect is amazing when you ask me about this article in general. It's a risk writing about ECW because I don't think anyone wants to hear it anymore. Nobody wants to hear about things they do not understand. The truth is, Shawn Michaels can proclaim that his ladder match with Razor Ramon was "hardcore" and that it spawned the future of ladder and hardcore matches...tell that to Public Enemy who dove through two tables to the outside of the ring that very same year. Tell that to Sabu and the Sandman who had a ladder match only it led to a batch of barbed wire in the first Stairway to Hell match. Think about it. Imagine if Jimi Hendrix never got the respect for revolutionizing the way the electric guitar was played, if Joe Montana was shown nothing for becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, if people just turned their heads after John F. Kennedy prevented a war with Russia in 1962 with the Cuban missile crisis. ECW re-invented the sport of wrestling but all it did was give Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon a warehouse full of goods for them to steal and no security to stop them. HOW did ECW innovate and reinvent the sport? Why would you have never seen any TLC or Hell in a Cell matches if it weren't for ECW? You wouldn't be watching Rey Mysterio right now on Smackdown, you wouldn't mark out for Chris Benoit or Eddie Guerrero or even Chris Jericho if it wasn't for ECW. Not to mention Steve Austin and Mick Foley. Wow. Those are too big names huh?

"Art is either plagiarism or revolution." Paul Gauguin (1848 - 1903)

Okay so I haven't sold you on the importance of ECW yet. When you have names like The Sheik, Terry Funk, and past bloodbaths with old farts like Snuka and Backlund, Sammartino we can come to the conclusion that ECW did not invent blood. So what gives? It's the attitude! In 110 degree bingo halls filled with testosterone and loyal hardcore Philly fans some of the greatest wrestlers had there chance to shine. I DO mean some of the greatest wrestlers. There would be no Chris Benoit or Eddie Guerrero if it weren't for ECW. Especially Steve Austin. These "misfits" and nobody wrestlers who weren't pumped full of protein shakes and 600 pound bench presses were given the opportunity. The first of many ECW revolutions and evolutions I give you "the wrestlers"...

You know him as the fat cynical Brooklyn Smackdown! Broadcaster, but THEN he was a maniac running around with no shoes and a caveman outfit who called himself Tazz. Then Tazz grew out of his gimmick and became one of the best technical wrestlers of the 90's. How abut Steve Austin? Bischoff fired him, Vince wasn't looking, but Paul Heyman was! Where do you think Austin formed his "attitude"? It didn't start at King of the Ring 1996, it started in ECW. Eddie Guerrero became a rising star in ECW from pure wrestling ability. As well as Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Chris Jericho. Look at all of this talent! Still more...Lest we forget Mick Foley A.K.A. Cactus Jack whom later feuded in the WWE with Terry Funk another future WWE acquisition. Ron Simmons passed through the ECW arena as well as Al Snow. Do you like cruiserweights? ECW brought Lucha Libre to America and put out a product that STILL exceeds the current and past wCw or WWF cruiserweight matches. Rey Mysterio, Juventude Guerrera, Psicosis...You can connect this to the wCw cruiserweight division so lets throw in Billy Kidman and Chavo Guerrero in there too. Not directly from ECW but definitely a cause. Tajiri, Guido Maritato (Nunzio) Jerry Lynn Spike Dudley, TAKA Michinoku even. The first WWF lightweight champion ever, was an ECW star. The Dudley Boyz are considered one of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history and yes, they too started in ECW. ROB VAN DAM. Enough said. Past WWE stars include Tommy Dreamer, Lance Storm and Raven. Kurt Angle was even close to signing a deal in ECW way before Vince ever thought of it. Then he witnessed Raven do a crucifixion to the Sandman. Kurt didn't like that so much. Oh yeah, the Sandman. The spark to "stone cold" Steve Austin. In it's beauty they also had Dawn Marie and Lita before Vince did. Steven Richards played a big part in ECW as well. Even now Chilly Willy is working with the WWE now and even though Vince ruined him, lets not forget Nova A.K.A. Simon Dean. I forgot Rhyno too. Sorry, there is a lot of these. Was it just the wrestling? ECW had produced some of the biggest names to come in wrestling history is there more? Of course!

"History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon." Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821)

We ask for credit for our work beyond a 2 disc DVD. Lets not forget how ECW influenced storylines, now non-existent but I'll run down what they accomplished. FIRST "crucifixion" before the Undertaker would do it multiple times, FIRST lesbian storyline between Kimona and Beulah with Tommy Dreamer before Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson ever got it on. FIRST storyline involving stealing someone's kid away with the Raven and Sandman, FIRST announcer in Joey Styles that truly knew what he was talking about and can actually name ALL of the moves. (Gordon Solie and Monsoon were great but compared to J.R. and Tony Shavoine?) FIRST pummeling of a Santa Claus around X-mas time, FIRST 3-way match, stairway to hell match, Singapore cane match and barbed wire matches that the "big 2" dared not to even go near. How about the use of random objects in a hardcore match? Cookie sheets, trash cans, stop signs, etc...Yeah that was New Jack. FIRST to do the "shoot interview" I would even go as far as saying the simple stand-off and the crowd applaudes was an ECW invention from the fans because the WWF and wCw fans really didn't understand the technicality of the sport they were watching. ECW made wrestling fans smart, and it was up to you to decide if you wanted to learn, or stay ignorant.

"I don't know that you would have seen WWE Attitude if it hadn't been for ECW." ~Mick Foley

Is this true? Clearly it is. From the forever declared WWE Hardcore Champion himself, he even recognizes that ECW invented the aspect of hardcore wrestling in big matches. How much ground does this cover? They threw "WRESTLING" into the mainstream instead of "wrasslin'" which could have led to the WWE NEVER pushing wrestlers like Kurt Angle or Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. No Hell in a Cell matches, no TLC matches, and an appalling travesty when Shane McMahon straight up STOLE Ron Van Dam's Van-terminator for use at Wrestlemania 17 it starts to get ridiculous. In a way ECW invented "the bump". Coin the term of some wrestlers that do not take bumps. In the WWF's desperate attempt to counter the nWo with D-X along came the ability to push the envelope. Val Venis getting a circumcision, Mae Young giving birth to a hand, the Angle/HHH/Stephanie love triangle which I still believe is the last great WWE storyline. Or even good for that matter. Even the RTC storyline seemed to pay homage to the racy "extreme" style that the WWF was putting across as a direct result of ECW. Were there any great "swerves" before ECW? .... Austin heel turn AFTER ECW, Hogan joining the nWo AFTER ECW. Beulah telling an angry Raven that her baby was Tommy's, the Sandman's own son turning on him and siding with Raven, hell even Shane Douglas throwing down the NWA world title and claiming ECW as a world title could be considered a swerve and a shoot. Plain and simple, ECW invented the "anything can happen" idealism through it's storylines, it's matches, and it's very heart. Mick Foley was right, there wouldn't have been WWE attitude or even a racier wCw if it weren't for a small, underproduced fed in a bingo hall.

"I was on 57th Ave. in New York city and there was a three-car pileup and a bunch of people looked at the car wreck and started chanting 'ECW'." -Paul Heyman

We don't ask for the blood of Vince McMahon, we do not want the death of slower, steroid enhanced wrestling. We need guys like Gene Snitzky and Heidenreich to laugh at. We want what is coming to us. Respect and a future. All great things come to an end, but not when they change the very fabric of their environment. Like the quote above ECW has moved past Philadelphia and New York. It has landed in the U.K and throughout Europe years after it's death. It's DVD is the 3rd top selling DVD of the year in wrestling. The very nature of wrestling is to entertain it's fans, and that's what ECW did. Give us 2 hours a week in a bingo hall on national television, give us poor lighting and bad stages, we'll give you what revolutionized wrestling to this very day. I am asking you the fans to call for a third brand if you will. Or even for Smackdown! To be replaced with ECW. Raw is the flagship, it's what diehard WWE fans want to see. We are not diehard WWE fans, we are diehard WRESTLING fans... "Revolution is not a onetime event." - Audre Lorde...Neither should ECW. Save it. Respect it. Bring it back. Wrestling needs a kick in the ass, let Paul Heyman and the ECW fans do it for the better sake of wrestling history.

SIGN THE ECW PETITION! BRING IT BACK! TELL THEM THAT YOU WANT YOUR ECW!

by
Joseph Bachman..


wrote:
I watched the WWE produced "Rise + Fall of ECW" awhile back and came to two conclusions.
1) ECW is HIGHLY overrated
2) ECW has the most loyal and insane fans. In both good and bad ways.

Now before we get angry with each other, let me say this: Joe Bachman writes an excellent article. It is a quality piece of work all the way around, even if I disagree with just about every point he makes. What I hope to do with this article is to show a different view of ECW, one that doesn't get talked about, but one that is just as valid. In his opening sentence, Mr. Bachman asks, "What DID happen to our friends?"

He is referring to ECW alumns, such as Terry Funk. Well, let me tell you about Terry Funk. Terry Funk is widely considered to be the father figure (or Grandfather figure) of ECW. For those who don't know, Terry Funk is a member of one the greatest wrestling families of all time, he was a former NWA World Champion in the late '70s, and a legend in Japan. But by the mid-80's Funk's career in the US seemed to have come to a halt. He appeared in the WWF briefly as nothing more than a comedy act, but then came his big chance. He signed with WCW in the late 80's and his career was reinvigorated. He was in a hot as hell feud with Ric Flair, main eventing ppvs, and though he didn't regain the World Title, he was seen as a major player by the fans. So, what did he do next, well of course he promptly retired. Well, it didn't take long before the lure of money, I repeat MONEY, brought him back to wrestling, only now he was seen as a washed-up has-been. Who would be willing to hire a man whose last world title reign ended nearly 15 years ago? Enter ECW. ECW was not much of anything when Funk arrived, but word of mouth and good publicity was making that little bingo hall the place to be to see cutting edge pro wrestling. And Funk got in on the ground floor. Dedication to his art form or business decision? I don't know for sure, but what I do know is this, gone was the Terry Funk that would lock in a Step over Toe Hold and in his place was the Terry Funk who pulled off one of the worst moonsaults ever. Was it quality wrestling, based on the fundamentals that embodied his precious "W-R-E-S-T-L-I-N-G"? Geez, I don't ever remember his brother or father ever setting fire to chairs (and fans, for that matter) or getting so tangled in barbed wire that it nearly ruined an entire show. I call bullshit on Terry Funk. The only tradition that Terry Funk carried on was that of wrestlers willing to do anything for a buck. "Whats that, I'll get paid more for burning some shlub with this branding iron, or getting thrown on some fireworks, than I will having 40 minute mat exhibitions, well shit sign me up!" I don't blame Paul Heyman for feeling so indebted to Funk, but for Christs sake, let's call a spade a spade, if it hadn't been Funk it would have been the next hard-up, former main-eventer that Heyman could convince to put other talent over and cripple himself to amuse a couple hundred losers. And what happened when Heyman couldn't afford Funk any longer? He jumped ship. No working for free for Terry Funk. Not even for E-C-Dub. By the way, did you say that Jerry Lawler never accoplished anything? Compare Funk's career with Lawler's, any way you want: number of title reigns, money drawn, quality opponents, and then write an apology letter to Mr. Lawler. That statement is an example of the insanity of the average ECW fan. It's great to be devoted, but your blind faith didn't save ECW, nor will make that outlandish claim true. But that isn't the only bizarre statement to be written in the column. Here is a list of ECW "firsts" according to Mr. Bachman, with my responses in ()

1) First crucifixion (True, but in very poor taste, for both ECW and WWF, though at least WWF had the good sense not to use an ACTUAL cross.

2) First lesbian kiss (Again, true, but I've seen 23 of them on the internet today alone, and what the hell does a lesbian kiss have to do with "W-R-E-S-T-L-I-N-G"

3) First "kid stealing angle" (Do I even have to go into why that angle was insulting to my intelligence and, surprise, surprise, in really poor taste)

4) First "Santa Clause beating" (It's called "cheap heat". Just replace "Santa" with: fan, old lady, valet, Al Wilson, Angelo Poffo, etc. And who is the King of Cheap Heat? Jerry Lawler!)

5) First 3-Way Dance (maybe) Barbed-wire match (WRONG) Singapore cane match (DOUBLE WRONG) Stairway to Hell Match (ECW can have that piece of shit match. Gotta do that homework or you get called on it. Dusty Rhodes and Tully Blanchard were having B-wired matches in '86, and the singapore cane match is just a variation on any "whatever-on-a-pole" match)

6) First Hardcore rules match (I'm paraphrasing here) with weapons used randomly, i.e. New Jack ( TRIPLE WRONG!!! Have you ever watched wrestling before ECW put out its first tape! Trust me, just because you didn't see it, doesn't mean it didn't happen. It reminds me of a quote from Ric Flair's book, "Hardcore is a term for guys who can't do fuck-all in the ring." I'm looking at you New Jack. That asshole should be rotting in jail right now, but I wouldn't expect an ECW fan to know what things like professionalism or empathy mean.)

7) (OK, sit tight, this is a two-parter, and it is a doozy) "I would even go so far as saying the simple stand-off and the crowd applauds was an ECW invention.." (If by stand-off, you mean chain wrestling in which no one gets the advantage, you are wrong, and if you mean two men staring each other down, you would be wrong again) ..."because WWF and wCw fans didn't understand the technicality (?) of the sport they were watching. (Wow, now I know why I was so confused when I watched Flair vs. Steamboat and Hart vs. Backlund and The Steiners vs. Muta and Hase, because ECW hadn't trained me to understand the "technicality" of wrestling. Oh, and by the way, you can't blame the average WWF and wCw fan for not being able to properly experience a good match, when it is your precious ECW that trained them to want tables and chairs and barbed wire and tits. Remember, ECW invented all of that.) And while were at it, let's get something straight, wrestling is a cut throat business, always has been and always will be. Crying about it won't help. ECW gave young talent a place to hone their skills until they got the call to "the big leauges". It was a minor league, where they cultivated and molded some very gifted wrestlers, but if Paul Heyman thought that Jericho, Benoit, Guerrero, or Malenko were planning on making a career out of ECW, he's as dumb as I think he is. ECW was niche. It was bush leauge. You can give it all the DVD sets you want, but the fact still remains, ECW outlived its shelf life by about 2 years and it is dead, dead, dead! Don't believe me? What was the last hardcore match in the WWE? When was last time you saw a "shocking swerve"? Oh, and what ever happened to Terry Funk. He's probably at home, thanking God he doesn't have to go back to that goddamn bingo hall and kill himself for those mutants.
Matty G (Sydney) wrote:
I'd like to commend Joseph for a good article. Here in Australia we were limited in our exposure to ECW by what came out on video or DVD - it wasn't even on cable. Just last week I had the pleasure of watching "The Rise and Fall of ECW" and it did open my eyes. Firstly, I have new found respect for Paul Heyman just for the fact that he is old school enough to agree to terms with a handshake. In Australia in the 1970s that was a very big deal, not just with wrestling, but with cricket, rugby league etc. Secondly, there was things on that DVD I had no idea ever happened; most notably the crucifixion angle with The Sandman. It's true that ECW ushered in the first wave of what we now call the "Attitude era" but the bigger question is: Is this necessarily a good thing ? Terry Funk talked about "wrestling" but ECW and it's cannibalisation by the WWE seemed to be one high spot after another. Maybe I'm getting old (34) but to me "wrestling" as Terry Funk calls it was about guys like Bret Hart, Ricky Steamboat, Ronnie Miller & Larry O'Dea, and today Benoit & Angle. The thing that strikes me about wrestling is you can't please all of the people all of the time. As Mick Foley says "If you don't like the high wire maybe you'll like the clowns." The legacy of ECW is that it did make WWE stand up and take notice, but thankfully not at the expense of it's own unique brand. There's room for everyone and hopefully always will be.
mikey R wrote:
I have to agree with your comments. I was never fortunate enough to witness an ECW event, but have saw enough of it to know that it revolutionised the wrestling industry. It rejuvanated it when it needed it the most.

But I do not think that the wrestling business needs another ECW. People grew tired of hardcore wrestling, the same way they grew tired of the 1980's style. What wrestling needs now, is another style. May I suggest puro/strong style. This is the way wrestling was meant to be. WWE could still have the storylines, just less time given to worthless segments such as the Diva Search, to make way for longer, more intelligent matches, not the two minute pieces of crap we have been given in the past few years. I think it is better to have longer, more drawn out matches, to explain the stories more.

I do think the wrestling world needs a kick in the ass, but I just don't think hardcore, or extreme is the way to do it.
RuthlessGattman wrote:
Ok, here's my input on this. ECW is dead, just like DX, Wolfpac, Corporation, nWo, and Hart Foundation. They may have drawn attention to the past, but the key term there is "in the past." People look back and say "yeah, that was great" but when they watch it, they go "what else is on?" Don't believe me? Listen to fans of all type comment about maybe the first Hell in the Cell or the Iron man Match for WWE. Yes, those two were great matches, but there were parts that make today's viewers yawn. Reason? We are desperately in need of a new style of wrestling. Someone commented about shortening promo segments, I agree. Unless it's a segment that is actually worth building for the main event of a ppv or the night's show, don't do it! Don't let anyone talk over five minutes unless it's the champion, number one contender, or someone the fans really seem to enjoy. Stop writing scripts for wrestlers to say and let them talk from their hearts and minds like they used to. Stop writing the entire match out and just write out the "Who wins and how." Let the wrestlers go with the audience emotions. When it's dead silent while say Snitsky's beating the crap out of Shelton, let Shelton pull off one of his big splashes in the turnbuckle or his tornado kick to excite the fans.

Ok, I ramble, I hate it when that happens. About ECW, yes, it did revolutionized the business, but you have to understand one thing.. no one outside of Philly really cared early in wrestling. It wasn't until 97 when people actually took into consideration about ECW. HBK vs. Razor Ramon Ladder Match was indeed hardcore for the fans who primarily watch WWF. sure there may not be an explosive in the ladder to blow someone's head off, but the fans didn't witness some guy named Sabu jumping around with chairs tied up in his legs. ECW was like today's OVW or more precisely NWA-TNA. What I mean is when a WWF/WCW wrestler gets fired for whatever reason, they go to ECW and hone their skills for either of the two to call back. Heyman basically took the guys that the two big leagues didn't want and turned them into stars. But it was Shawn Micheals who really opened the doors for the "small guys" like Tazz, Sabu, Jericho, Benoit, Gurerro, etc.

Also, people get tired of hardcore after a while, it's pointless. Stairway to Hell? You have to climb a ladder just to get barbed wire so you can use it on your opponent? Hell, just buy some barbed wire from a hardware store or something. Fans get tired of things quickly, those in Philly are just lacking brain cells after a result of multiple cousins marrying each other. I watched three tapes and the same people were there.. maybe that says something.
wrote:

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